What is wayfinding?

Wayfinding is the process of using spatial and environmental information to navigate to a destination.

The Image of the City. K. Lynch, MIT Press, 1960

Wayfinding can be defined as spatial problem solving. It is knowing where you are in a building or environment, knowing where your desired destination is, and knowing how to get there from your present location.

For full definition, visit The Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) website.

Wayfinding can include physical elements such as urban design, architecture, landmarks, lighting, footpaths, landscaping and signage. These elements work together to define paths and identify key decision points, while aiming to improve and enhance people’s experiences as they move from place to place.

Why is good wayfinding important?

Investment in city-wide map-based wayfinding systems has enhanced the brands and reputations of the cities in which they have been established, encouraging exploration and contributing to the sense of welcome experienced by visitors.

Wayfinding Signage in Melbourne Business case workshop outcomes and      Business case scoping report , SGS Economics and Planning, 2015.

Benefits of wayfinding

Benefits for users of the wayfinding systems include:

  • Improved legibility and accessibility, journey time savings and more positive experiences
  • Increased walking and cycling, leading to wider health benefits and improved feelings of safety and security.

Benefits for government authorities and businesses include:

  • More tourists, local visitors and business travellers benefitting local economies
  • Reduced car use and associated externalities, and more efficient use of road space
  • Less visual clutter and improvements to the public realm
  • Positive Benefit Cost Ratios (BCRs).*

* The BCR for the Toronto 360 system, for example, shows that for every dollar invested, $3.7 would be generated for the city. Toronto wayfinding Benefit/Cost Analysis, T. Pearce, 2018. https://citywayfinding.com/toronto-wayfinding-benefitcost-analysis/